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Interview with Artist Nicole Virella

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Nicole Virella is one of the most versatile artists in the industry. He work ranges from character design in animation, designing the art on trading cards, and what she's best known for illustrating comic books.

She's worked on numerous books at Marvel, such as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEADPOOL, ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, HYPERION, MARVEL 1852, ad POE DAMERON. On top of doing the interiors she has done a lot of cover work as well.

This Spring sees the release of her new book, EVE OF EXTINCTION, at new comic book company TKO studios.  

No matter what she's working on, it's definitely something you're gonna want to buy. Her art is without a doubt, worth the price of admission. She is an artist I think everyone should keep their eyes on.

COMIC LOUNGE: What was your first experience with comic books as a fan?

NICOLE VIRELLA: My earliest experience with comic books as a fan was my father buying comics at the local bodega. He would get a bunch of them for me to read or even just appreciate the artwork. And I would always try to recreate the panels and draw my own stories because of it.

COMIC LOUNGE: Who are some creators that have inspired you?

VIRELLA:  Some creators that inspire me are Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Lee Weeks, and Mike Hawthorne. I’m drawn to their work specifically for the beautiful sense of characterization and the storytelling they do. In my opinion, they are truly some of the best draftsmen working today. I’ve also been very fortunate to meet both Jose and Lee in person. They’re both some of the sweetest, most humble people in the industry. And I have to give a special shout out to Mike who donated his time ( as well as many other fellow colleagues and friends) to donating artwork to help raise funds for my Endometriosis surgery, which was successful. I’m eternally grateful to everyone.

COMIC LOUNGE: You've done a lot of work at Marvel, on characters like Deadpool and All New Wolverine. Were you a fan of those characters before working on those book?

VIRELLA:  Yes, I was a fan before I started working on these titles. Especially, Mike Hawthorne’s run on DEADPOOL. I think he draws the one of the coolest and most expressive (and handsome ha!) Wades in the Marvel universe. 

When I was approached by Marvel to do a spiritual sequel to Mark Millar’s and John Romita Jr.’s WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE, with ALL-NEW WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE II written by Tom Taylor, I was ecstatic. Laura Kinney is an interesting Wolverine character because she first appeared in the animated series "X-Men: Evolution". What always fascinated me about Laura is how she was able to reclaim a good portion of her humanity in spite of trauma due to mistreatment inflicted by her handlers. I think this is what makes her story very compelling for most readers.

COMIC LOUNGE: Out of all of your projects, which would you say has been your favorite?

VIRELLA:  I couldn’t really say, which project is my favorite because each one sticks out in my mind for various reasons. For example, I have a soft spot for RETURN OF THE LIVING DEADPOOL and MARVEL 1872 because I hid various little Easter eggs both part of Marvel continuity and personal ones. One funny personal Easter egg that I drew into ROTLDP [Return of the Living Deadpool]was a white horse named Bozak. This was an actual horse I rode on when I was kid that I fell off of. And I chose to immortalize him in a comic. You’re welcome Bo! 

Another example is when I added the urban street game Skully being played by the enemy Deadpool's into the last chapter of ROTLDP. Skully is an old school bottle cap game where the last player on the field wins. This is significant because I wanted to symbolically show how Deadpool is the final piece on the board and manages to ‘win the game’ by saving the world. 

COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any characters you would like to work on in the future?

VIRELLA:  I’d like to do another Deadpool of the same series I worked on, further exploring Liz’s (affectionally named ‘Lizpool’) character and her world. I’d also like to work on some DC properties as well.

COMIC LOUNGE: How do you prepare, when taking on a new project?

VIRELLA: Without fail, I panic every time. Every. Time. I honestly can’t help it with a new job. Then I calm down and read the script over and over again till I feel like I have a clear idea in my head of what I’m going to layout.

COMIC LOUNGE: Do you prefer illustrating traditionally or digitally?

VIRELLA:  I don’t have a preference really, but working digitally tends to be more economical. Working digitally allows you to work remotely from wherever you want and you can organize all your layers whereas if you were working traditionally you’d have to layer tracing paper and vellum over your drawings. There are some pitfalls to working digitally - your initial cost of equipment is more expensive and replacing parts is expensive. You have to buy enough storage i.e. online storage and external hard drives to save your work. And most of the time there’s no physical copy of your art unless you are working in a hybrid method where you have digital pencils, printing them out on paper, and then inking over that so you have a physical page to sell. Also power outages are your worst enemy when working digitally.

COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any projects you're currently working on that you can talk about?

VIRELLA:  I’m currently working on a horror comic with TKO Studios, EVE OF EXTINCTION, and I worked on a bunch of variant covers for Dynamite and Valiant. And I’m also working on a small secret Marvel project at the moment.

COMIC LOUNGE: What does being an artist mean to you?

VIRELLA: What being an artist means to me is hard to quantify. Art can tell you a lot about yourself, it can also teach you a great deal of patience and focus. It’s a universal language that anyone can understand. I had an experience once when I was riding the train and I was looking through a small portfolio I had, a man next to me who didn’t speak English gestured to me how much he liked my work. I realized in that moment that deep connection we all share for creativity and beauty. 

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